Mother's Day Specials - Seed Collections on Sale!
Creative Containers for Starting Seeds - Holly Simpson
Homage to Twister, A Good Farm Dog - Paul Betz
How to Conduct Your Own Variety Trials - Heather Jerrett
Greetings From Tom
Hello growers and gardeners!
An early spring has continued to give us an edge over past years when we have had to scramble to get things done. Our brassica seed crops are all planted out, all the rest of the fields are prepped and ready for both trials and seed crops. However, a winter storm warning is in effect for tomorrow, so... Greater extremes and changes in the weather are what we can continue to expect, I'm afraid. It makes me realize that it is going to demand new things from us as growers. Just as our movement and the awareness of the importance of local, organic food grows, so do the challenges. Every month that passes brings with it more great news - like the increase in farmers under 35 growing from 3% to 6% in the last Agriculture Census, and more hard news - like the real struggles of vegetable farmers in Kenya (including organic ones) who last week laid off 150,000 agricultural workers and destroyed perishable crops because the ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano prevented their shipments to European markets 4,256 miles away. My first thought was about how fragile our industrial food system is and my second thought was aren't there Kenyans who are starving; why are they shipping food away? In fact, why are any of us shipping food outside of our countries, states or even towns? A return to a sane food system in many cases means a return to a local food system. We not only need robust local production, processing and distribution systems for our own needs, we also need it so that we can help and support each other during the next "eruption", be it a storm, a bad regulation, $200/barrel oil or whatever form it takes. Change is here, and the best time to build what we need was yesterday. The second best time is today. You all and your work give me the greatest inspiration.
President & Founder
Seed Collections for Mother's Day!
Show Mom your love with the gift that keeps on giving throughout the season!
All of our Seed Collections:
Looking for some other gift ideas? Check out these other gardening products for everything youíll need to give Mom the perfect gardening gift, or give her the ultimate in freedom of choice - a gift certificate!
Place your order by May 3rd, 6 PM for guaranteed delivery by or before Saturday, May 8th.
(Orders placed after May 3rd may still arrive by Saturday, May 8th,
depending on ship to address. Expedited shipping options are available
- call (802) 472-6174 for details.
Garden Starters, Heirloom Lovers,
Kitchen Herb or White House Garden
are 20% off and have free shipping through May 31st
Contain Your Excitement: Creative Containers for Starting Seeds - by Holly Simpson, Sales Associate
Purchasing plastic flats and trays can be expensive if you are starting your own seedlings for the garden and want to pinch a few pennies. It can be more cost-effective and even a little satisfying to rummage through your recycling bin (or your compost bin) for potentially useful household items that will transform into containers for starting garden vegetables. This method can also give new life to food containers that may not be recyclable.
If you have a lot of egg cartons kicking around, whether they are cardboard, Styrofoam or plastic, they make perfect growing vessels. Cut the egg container in half and prick holes in the bottom section for good drainage and for the roots to have room to push through the form. Then add soil from your compost bin or use a general purpose starter soil mix like Vermont Compostís Fort V. You can line the scalloped bottom of the carton with a plastic grocery bag and then use the top part that you removed earlier as a tray to catch water underneath and act as a support for the cells after you have watered, as they do become soft and weak when wet. Another option would be to use the top part as a separate container. Sow your seeds and make sure to water regularly but use caution so the egg container wonít get water logged. Place in a sunny window, greenhouse or under a cold-frame to grow. When ready to transplant, it is okay to plant cardboard along with the plant but the Styrofoam or plastic will not disintegrate in the soil.
Crafting seed starting pots from newsprint is also a quick and effective method. Take a jelly jar or a baby food jar and wrap several layers of newspaper around the jar tightly to form a cylinder. Tuck ends up into the middle to create a vessel, remove the jar and add your growing medium. Repeat this until you have 6 or 8 of these or enough to fill a seedling flat or baking tray from end to end. They will support each other in the tray. Newspaper pots work best for transplants that grow very quickly as they do break down with excess moisture. You can also follow these steps, elimination the need for any jars, using toilet paper or paper towel cores.
Picking through the compost may not be the most inviting thing to do, but if you plan ahead for a day or so before planting, there are a couple of food items that prove to be very functional. Eggshells will supply your seedlings with plenty of nutrients. Carefully crack the top third of the egg by tapping with a sharp knife or on the edge of a bowl. Empty the eggshells and wash. Sterilize in boiling water, if you feel the need to. Poke a hole in the bottom with a tack for drainage. Fill each egg with potting soil and set in a cardboard egg container. Sow your seeds and then make a quiche or an omelet with the eggs used. Another suggestion would be to use avocado skins as a little pot for seedlings. Scrape out and rinse gently. Fill with potting soil and sow seeds. With either the eggshell pot or the avocado skin, just transplant the whole item into the prepared soil.
Creative containers are easier to find than you may think. The key word is creative. Use yogurt containers, soda and milk bottles with the tops cut off, and plastic food containers from produce such as berries or grapes or sturdy food items on their way to the compost bin. Take-out rice boxes are especially water resistant with their waxy coating. Anything will do, provided that you clean the food residues thoroughly out and poke drainage holes in the bottom of each before planting.
Homage to Twister, A Good Farm Dog - Paul Betz, Sales Associate and owner of High Ledge Farm in Woodbury, VT
Like most farmers, my life is tied to the seasons. From November through April, my job at High Mowing takes me away four days a week, and I miss being at the farm. I also really miss time with my family. I get home relatively close to supper and bedtime, and there isnít much time to spend just hanging out. One of the great things about the summer is working at home. Even though I might not be able to do a non- work thing whenever I want, I can still visit and check in and see people.
I was going to write an article about my new greenhouse heating system, or some spring thing, but it will have to wait. Saturday, April 25, my 15 year plus old dog passed away, and itís tearing me apart. We got her as a rescue dog in the fall of 1996, and she has been a part of our family ever since. Her name was Twister, given to her because she was so beaten down and submissive she would twist and roll over on her back when you came up to her. The day we brought her home, she ran around our very small house, smelled everything and then jumped up on the couch and went to sleep. I was hooked. It was a few weeks before she would even bark, but once her health improved, she was a fireball. We didnít always see eye to eye, but I loved her all the same. When she was about six she settled down, and was the ultimate farm dog. She went with me everywhere, either jumping into the truck to go to whichever field we were headed or following the tractor. She never chased chickens. She walked down the pathways in the fields. Didnít step on too many plants. Then she would crawl under whatever vehicle I had brought and sleep in the shade.
I was looking forward to spending the summer with her at my side. Last week, when I had to do some harrowing and spring pea planting, I drove away quietly. She was sleeping and I didnít want to wake her because the field is a Ĺ mile away and I couldnít drive her up. 10 minutes later she was there, with her tail wagging as she came up the road. She barked at me a few times and went to sleep under the tractor.
When I went to take her dinner last night, something didnít seem right, and when I got closer to her spot in the barn I knew right away what had happened. She was around all day, and had seemed fine. I suppose that going in your sleep like that is the ultimate gift, not having to suffer and all. I sat with her a lot and petted her and reminded her what a true gift she has been to me. Thanks for the love that you brought to my family, Twister. You were the best.
Conduct Your Own Variety Trials - Heather Jerrett, High Mowing Organic Seeds Trials Manager
Evaluating the performance of different varieties through trialing is an important tool for farmers and gardeners. Choosing the right varieties for your specific area and field conditions can significantly reduce stress and increase success while avoiding the disappointment of a failed crop. At High Mowingís trial fields, we evaluate hundreds of varieties and use this information to select the best overall varieties to offer our customers.
Planning the Trial
There are some key tips to planning your trial. First, you want to prioritize the crops you would like to trial. It may sound appealing to trial many crops, but in reality this will likely lead to more work than you can keep up with and you wonít be able to acquire the information to make it worth your labor. It is good to start off with one or two crops that are most important to you or that you would like to introduce into your mix. If you are able to plan a few years out you will have all the more time to talk to fellow growers, take notes from various catalogs, and look up relevant information before the plants are actually in the field. In the HMS trials we have a priority list. More often than not, we arenít able to get to everything, so this way everyone knows which trials to pay especially close attention to and which ones are important but can be left behind for a bit.
Now that you have a plan of what you would like to trial, it is time to write down some goals. It is important to write out your goals so that when you are choosing varieties, sourcing seed and planning the trial, your efforts will reflect your goal. Variety trials require time and attention. If you can take the time to set up a well-planned trial you will spend less time figuring it out during your busy season. The trial goals should determine the timing of planting, managing the crop, how large the plot size needs to be, when and how to evaluate the crop and how the evaluation will be interpreted.
Choose Varieties and Acquire Seeds
The next step is choosing varieties and acquiring seed. This will be very dependent on the goals of your trial. If you are trying to find the best variety of spinach for over-wintering you will want to check in with growers that are already over-wintering spinach and get some recommendations and perhaps add a few of your favorite varieties as well as varieties suggested in catalogs. A helpful tip is to create a wish list of desired characteristics. This will help guide your variety selection. The list of desired traits will also help define what you would like to evaluate later. If you are trying to identify the earliest ripening orange slicing tomato you may also want to describe your goal as finding an orange slicing tomato that ripens in less than 80 days in the field, weight averages 8-10oz, determinate to semi-determinate habit, sweet flavor, and is resistant to Fusarium and Verticilium Wilts.
An important task when choosing your varieties is to include a market standard or a variety that you are already very familiar with. This variety will act as a point of reference and the standard for one or more of your desired traits. With so many unknown environmental factors, it is important to be able to compare the progress of unknown varieties to one that you know well.
Types of Trials
There are two basic types of trials: observational trial and replicated. In an observational trial, you have a single plot of varieties to observe. A replicated trial, on the other hand, involves replicating the single plot in multiple areas on your farm or garden. The replicated trial requires more attention and effort and may not be necessary for your goals. For simplicity we will complete this review with the observational trial in mind.
Observational trials work great for an initial evaluation of variety characteristics or particular strains of the same variety, checking for trueness of type or seed quality concerns such as germination rate or emergence vigor, identifying variety traits and potential strengths and weaknesses of them.
When performing observational trials you only have one shot for the season to look at your set of varieties. It is important to reduce any variation in your plot such as soil type, sun exposure, access to irrigation, slope. If you are unable to eliminate plot variation, it is important to keep these limitations in mind. For example, in 2010 we conducted an extensive spinach trial. We could clearly see variability in fertility where the compost had been spread. Because it was consistent throughout the plot we were evaluating, we were able to accurately compare varieties. However, we also had to keep in mind that each variety was not living up to its true potential.
The number of plants you will want to include in your trial depends on the available space, and, to a large extent, on the crop type and the number of varieties you would like to include. The greater the population size the more reliable your information will be.
A very important task when pulling your trial together is labeling. From the greenhouse to the field you will want to label every variety and its source. At High Mowing, we label everything twice, just in case one gets lost. We also usually put varieties in alphabetical order to make it easy to find them in the field. You may also do a blind trial where you take all your varieties and assign them a number. From then on, each variety is only associated with a number. Blind variety trials eliminate any bias you may have towards your long-time favorite or ones you think are more disease resistant because of the claims on the packet and so on.
The trial evaluation should reflect all the characteristics stated in your goal and should be a combination of data and notes. Data can be very useful but is also time consuming. Narrow your data objectives to a manageable list that reflect your desired characteristics. At High Mowing, we use a number of evaluations based on the nature of the trial such as: germination rate, emergence, vigor, plant characteristics (height, weight, sensitivity to bolting), edible portion of plant characteristics, uniformity, flavor, ease of harvesting, length of productivity (first to final harvest dates), yield, holding ability in the field, packing, washing, storage ability and pest and disease sensitivity.
Evaluation criteria can be qualitative or quantitative. Quantitative data can be measured directly (height of plant, weight of fruit etc). When taking quantitative data, it is helpful to have multiple measurements per plant or fruit, and take an average so that it represents a wide range instead of just one unit. Qualitative traits are descriptive - such as color, flavor and uniformity. We measure these with a 1-5 ranking, where 1=worst and 5=best. It is important to use the full range when using a ranked scale. This can prove difficult especially if all your plants look great. Start out with obvious evaluations like color, or growth rate, to get used to the ranking process and move onto vigor, disease resistance or overall best. I like to walk through and find my #1 ranking and my #5 ranking, and then fill in the spaces between. If you feel the ranking system is too complicated or does not offering good information, you can also use a rating system where #1 could equal a certain quality and #5 another quality. The rating system does not offer good comparative data to crunch, but may be sufficient for your needs. I often use a rating system for things like maturity, where 1=no signs of maturity, 3=perfect maturity and 5=over mature. The most important role of data collection is that you can easily use it.
Assess Your Results
Once all data and field notes are collected it is time to assess your results. This is probably one of the most painful steps for me because I already have all the results in my head and feel like I have a good assessment of varieties from seeing them in the field. But as you would guess, there are often hidden surprises in the numbers and I am always thankful I have taken the time to write up my conclusions. It also makes it very easy to return to for information and for others to be able to get a quick snapshot. Again, you will want to start with your goal and start reviewing each characteristic one by one. Much can be learned by simply looking over the data without using statistical analysis. However, statistics offer a relevance to the data you collected and can provide insight to the variability of the data. We have performed statistical analysis in the past but do not feel it is necessary for our purposes at this point in time. We take all of our data and enter it into Excel datasheets. This proves to be very helpful when reviewing our data, especially to easily calculate what the average ratings are for criteria. This allows you to state whether a variety is above or below the average immediately.
The last and most helpful step is to identify the winners of your trial. At the end, when I have all the information in front of me, I like to give each variety and overall ranking based on data and my notes. This quickly lets me see which varieties performed well based on my desired characteristics and I can include notes on how to proceed in the future or other characteristics that have caught my eye.
I hope all of the above gives you a good starting point to trial some varieties on your farm and develop a process for assessing which varieties are truly standing-out.
Katie's Kitchen - Katie Lavin, Wholesale Sales
Beet Burgers & Yummy Sauce!
Do you still have some root vegetables to eat up before new spring vegetables come in? Make some beet burgers! I have made these a lot. To make it quick and to save my fingers, I use my food processor for the beets, carrots, onion, and garlic. They always seem to hit the spot, especially topped with Yummy Sauce and serve with oven fries. Top them with the edible sprouts or tasty spring salad greens.
Beet Burgers (adapted from GVOCSA Food Book) Makes 8-10 burgers
2 cups grated beets
2 cups grated carrots
1 cup cooked rice or quinoa
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1 small onion, diced very small
ľ cup oil
3 Tbs flour
3 Tbs fresh or 1 Tbs dried parsley (or other savory herb)
2-4 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 Tbs soy sauce
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste, or not at all
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl until they are well mixed. Shape about Ĺ cupís worth into a patty about ĺ inch thick and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes and turn over. Bake for another 15 minutes, or to desired doneness. Top with generous spoonfuls of Yummy Sauce on your favorite toasted bread.
1/4 cup mayo (or more to taste)
1 cup yogurt
Dill, to taste (fresh, dried, dill pickles, dilly beans, etc)
Ketchup, a few squirts, to taste
Hot sauce or cayenne pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredients together.
Upcoming Food and Farming Events Where High Mowing Seeds Will Be Represented
May 6th - Taste of Vermont in DC
A selected group of Vermont food producers hold a special event at the Capital for Congress people and their staff.
May 11th - Vermont Public Health Association Annual Conference
Keynote address by Tom Stearns, High Mowing Organic Seeds: "How Re-building our Food Systems Builds Healthy Communities". Our nation's food system - how food is grown, transported, processed and eaten - has a lot to do with the environmental, nutritional and rural economic challenges that we face. But a re-imagined food system holds the greatest potential for solving these very problems. Learn more about the inter-connection between these issues and how Vermont is leading the nation toward new models. Join Tom Stearns, founder and president of High Mowing Organic Seeds and chair of several VT agricultural non-profits in this lively discussion.
May 15th - Panel Discussion and Table Presentations:
"Food in the 21st Century: Vermont and Beyond"
May 16th - "Fresh" the Movie showing
With the Director Ana Sophia Joanes and Tom Stearns, president of High Mowing Organic Seeds at the Roxy in Burlington, VT as a part of Vermont Restaurant Week. Reception from 4:30-5:15 PM and three showings starting at 5:15, 7:30 and 9:30 PM.
May 17th - VBSR Conference: Whatís a Regional Food Center? Emerging Community Business Collaboratives Building Local Food Economies
Local farmers and food entrepreneurs are not only seeing increased demand at farmersí markets and restaurants, but also increased interest in new partnerships and community initiatives involving multiple producers to build infrastructure and access new markets. These regional food centers are expanding opportunities to grow new farms and food hubs for cooperative marketing to support strong farm networks and an expanding consumer base. Panelists representing three different models of food centers in Vermont will share their perspectives on how businesses can support strengthening their local economies through food. Join us to share stories and lessons from the growth of cooperative work between centers, entrepreneurs and major market partners across the state.
May 20th - Hardwick Area Farm and Agri-business tour
Led by Tom Stearns and sponsored by The Center for an Agricultural Economy. These exciting tours of the area are scheduled monthly May-October on the 3rd Thursday of each month and will always include High Mowing Organic Seeds as well as four or five other amazing and innovative sustainable farm and food enterprises in the Hardwick area. Pre-registration is required. $50 per person. Learn more and sign up at http://www.hardwickagriculture.org/outreach.html
May 29th - Hardwick Sustainable Living and Agricultural Fair
Featuring a spring parade, exhibitor/vendor booths representing local green businesses, food producers, and groups educating on gardening, composting, renewable energy, food preservation, transportation issues and more! 12 Ė 4:30 PM at Atkins Field. High Mowing Organic Seeds will be giving out free seedlings started in all natural, bio-degradable DOTpots using compost from High Fields Institute.
June 9-11 - Slow Money National Conference
Tom Stearns will talk about the creative financing of High Mowing Organic Seeds as well as the role of food based businesses in helping the re-build our nationís healthy food system.